FIPRESCI Critsics' Perspective on Iranian Independent Cinema (Part- Six)

Hsin Wang
Writer and Film Critic/Taiwan

How much do you know about Iranian culture? Do you know any Iranian artists out of the field of cinema?
- I’ve always enjoyed reading about history. I’ve read some books about the history and culture of Arabic countries and Asia, and also some novels in Chinese language. Also, I’m an oil painting critic and a sculptor, and therefore, I’m familiar with works from the Middle East, including Iran.
On the other hand, I have my own special ways of discovering new cultures via cinema. Once a director is awarded at one of the main three film festivals, Cannes, Berlin, and Venice, I try to watch all of their works. I came to know Iranian culture and cinema this way.

How did you become acquainted with Iranian Cinema? And when was the first time you watched an Iranian film?
- My first encounter with Iranian cinema goes back to 1995 and Jafar Panahi’s The White Balloon. I enjoyed that film very much and began searching for other great film directors from Iran. I also watched Sohrab Shahid Saless’ movies, which unfortunately do not seem to have had an international distributor for his works.

What do you think are the most important matters that Iranian independent filmmakers should work on?
- Due to the special nature of Iranian culture, the directors always present new and strange experiences to the Western-influenced world by describing the reality in society. This is something like Chinese fever (Dengue fever) that happened in 1990. Some facts about societies such as Iran and China have always been amazing for Western audiences; facts such as the women’s situation, vanity of politics, and lack of free speech. I am delighted that the new generation of filmmakers, such as Asghar Farhadi, is presenting the current social issues in the country in a sensitive and subtle manner. Watching Farhadi’s A Hero was extremely enjoyable for me.

What are the main factors for the success of Iranian cinema at variety of film festivals in the world?
- Names like Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi shaped the development of Iranian cinema. The new generation of Iranian filmmakers has proven that not only they are capable of creating an artistic epic story, but, they are also fully acquainted with the techniques and narration style of these epic stories, and I believe that is the main reason for this success.

Which of the Iranian filmmakers do you like the most?
- Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi, Babak Payami, Jafar Panahi, Mohammad Rasoulof and Shirin Neshat.

Which cinematic movements in the world, whether before or after the Islamic Revolution, have influenced Iranian cinema?
- I can answer this question generally. I believe that all the new generation of Iranian filmmakers have watched many of the masterpieces in the history of cinema. Obviously, they don’t have the problem of accessibility of these works. For a director in the 80s, it was almost impossible to find all the great films made before his generation, but the Internet has solved that problem completely. Now, I think all young filmmakers are affected by the fantastic works of art made before them, whether they want it or not. If we want to know the extent and nature of this influence on the new filmmakers, we have to interview them personally, and yet the answers will definitely amaze us. For instance, Tsai Ming-Liang is in love with François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, and Ryususke Hamaguchi, the Japanese director, is deeply affected by Jean Renoir and John Cassavetes.

Are you familiar with the new generation of Iranian filmmakers?
- This totally depends on the definition of the new generation! I believe that Asghar Farhadi who became known for his film About Elly in 2009, is considered a new-generation filmmaker. I love his work. He is a top international artist. Unfortunately, most of the Iranian new-generation filmmakers’ works are not screened in Taiwan.

What is your opinion regarding the status of women in Iranian cinema?
- It is well known that Iranian women's rights are among the lowest in the world. There are a lot of limitations for them. The United Nations has always criticized the violation of women's rights in Iran and sought to realize it. This is the main issue in many Iranian movies, and this is a good point.

What do you think is the future for independent filmmakers in Iran?
- I think, as long as Asghar Farhadi is making movies, Iranian cinema is at the top. However, I believe that the cinemas of Japan, Iran, and China represent the three best cinemas in Asia.

[FIlm Magazine NO. 605]

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